Thursday, June 28, 2012

Strawberry Birthday Cake

For the last several years, I've made my own birthday cakes, and while I consider myself a competent baker, each one has ended in disaster in some way.  There was a deflated baba au rhum, a chocolate chiffon cake with the texture of a rubber sponge, and a far-from-disaster cake that tasted delicious but was quite the disaster.  So, naturally, I was apprehensive about it this year, but having a good feeling about this year, I went for it, opting for a girly pink cake packed with strawberry purée.

The results were phenomenal---this may be the best cake I've ever had.  The white cake had a delicate hint of pinkness and berry taste with the loveliest fluffy texture, while the strawberry buttercream gave the cake a vibrant pink coating (that these pictures don't quite do justice) and a pure, strong strawberry flavor.  Enjoyed with sparkling rosé after the walk home from the lake, it was the sweetest end to the day.

Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream

For the purée:

Let thaw a 1 lb. bag of frozen strawberries.  Purée with a food processor or immersion blender and cook over medium low heat until thickened and reduced by half.  You should end up with about 1 cup of purée.

For the cake:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup strawberry purée
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 9 inch cake pan (I use a non-stick springform).  In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.  Add the sugar and continue to beat.  Add egg whites and blend on a low speed until combined.  Add vanilla, milk, and strawberry purée and beat until combined.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt, then slowly add it to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Pour into greased cake pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the buttercream:

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup strawberry purée
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar

Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat in strawberry purée and vanilla, and then slowly add the sugar, mixing to combine.  How much sugar is up to you---add enough to give it a nice, firm consistency but not to be overpoweringly sweet.  N.B. this recipe makes quite a bit of frosting, as you can see in the image of the slice above.  I generally prefer less frosting, so next time I'll half this recipe.  But if you like a thick layer of frosting, stick to this recipe.

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